Many of us dream about dropping enough weight to have a flat, bikini stomach, but unless you’re already thin, it will probably take longer than a week. Shrinking your belly is dependent on lowering your overall body fat percentage and that takes time, depending on what your starting point is. That said, all hope isn't lost. If you find your stomach is a problem area, a few adjustments may lead to big results over a period of weeks or months. Consult your doctor before changing your diet or starting a new exercise program, especially if you’re not used to exercising.
Boost Protein for Flatter Stomach
When following a lower-calorie diet to reduce body fat, boosting your protein intake may enhance abdominal fat loss, according to a research published in the October 2009 issue of the journal Nutrition Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. In the study, researchers put subjects on either a regular diet or a high-protein diet for 12 weeks. People on the high-protein experienced more fat loss overall -- including more abdominal fat loss -- than those on the regular diet.
The American College of Sports Medicine suggests people who are exercising and strength training should get up to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. So if you weigh 140 pounds, you’d need up to 112 grams of protein a day. You can boost your protein intake with sources of protein such as eggs, chicken and turkey breast, lean cuts of beef, low-fat yogurt, fish, dried beans and cottage cheese.
Lower Carbohydrate to Slim Stomach
There's a reason body builders cut their carbohydrate intake when they want to drop belly fat. It's thought that lowering carbohydrate intake, even modestly, improves the body’s response to insulin, which can help decrease your abdominal fat. In other words, when you eat fewer carbs, your body releases less insulin and turns to fat for energy.
Researchers tested this idea on volunteers who had type 2 diabetes. The volunteers followed either a low-fat diet or a lower-carbohydrate diet, and those on the lower-carb diet lost more abdominal fat. The authors concluded that a lower-carbohydrate diet has beneficial effects on fat distribution and overall body composition compared to a low-fat diet. The study was published in the January 2015 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.
Fight Fat with Fat to Shrink Belly
While it sounds counter-intuitive to eat fat in order to flatten your tummy, the truth is, your body needs fat to function and the type of fat you choose may make a difference. Adding medium-chain fats to your weight management plan may boost fat loss, including abdominal fat, according to a study found in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, published in the 2008.
Clinical data indicates medium-chain fats burn more calories than do long-chain fats, according to the authors. To test whether this increase in calorie-burning leads to a boost in fat loss, participants added either medium-chain fats or olive oil -- which contains long-chain fats -- to their weight loss program. The group that consumed the medium-chain fats lost more total fat and more abdominal fat than the group that had olive oil.
If you're looking to add medium-chain fats to your meal plan, the most common and richest source of is coconut oil. You could add a couple teaspoons to a smoothie or use it to stir-fry veggies.
Exercise for a Flat Belly
Along with a nutritious diet, getting enough exercise can help lower overall body fat and abdominal fat, too. It's best to participate in both aerobic exercise -- such as running, cycling or swimming -- and strength training. Researchers found that combining aerobic exercise with strength training caused more abdominal fat loss than aerobic exercise alone, according to a study the Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science published in May 2003. If you're not used to exercising, start slow to prevent injury.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends getting at least 150 to 250 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. You can meet this recommendation by exercising 30 to 60 minutes per day for five days a week. On three of those days -- such as Monday, Wednesday and Friday -- you can strength train for part of your exercise time. Consult a fitness professional for help designing an exercise program that meets your needs.
- The Journal of Nutrition: A Lower-Carbohydrate, Higher-Fat Diet Reduces Abdominal and Intermuscular Fat and Increases Insulin Sensitivity in Adults at Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Weight-Loss Diet That Includes Consumption of Medium-Chain Triacylglycerol Oil Leads to a Greater Rate of Weight and Fat Mass Loss than Does Olive Oil
- Nutrition Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases: High Protein Diets Decrease Total and Abdominal Fat and Improve CVD Risk Profile in Overweight and Obese Men and Women With Elevated Triacylglycerol
- The Journal of Physiological Anthropology and Applied Human Science: The Effect of Combined Aerobic and Resistance Exercise Training on Abdominal Fat in Obese Middle-Aged Women
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss Now Available
- Hospital Nutrition: A Coconut Extra Virgin Oil-Rich Diet Increases HDL Cholesterol and Decreases Waist Circumference and Body Mass in Coronary Artery Disease Patients
- American College of Sports Medicine: Protein Intake for Optimal Muscle Maintenance